Advanced energy fields in Florida poised for growth

The number of advanced energy jobs is on the rise in Florida, and experts said the industry could add more than 5,000 new jobs by the end of the year.

A new report from the Advanced Energy Economy Institute found there were more than 140,000 advanced energy jobs in the state in 2015. The industry employs nearly twice as many people are the agriculture industry, more people than the real estate industry.

According to the report, prepared for the AEE Institute by BW Research Partnership, employers expect to add more than 5,000 new jobs by the end of 2016, bringing the number of advanced energy jobs to more than 145,000.

“In Florida and around the country, advanced energy has become a significant market segment. That is paying off in jobs for Floridians,” said Graham Richard, CEO of Advanced Energy Economy, a national business association.

While energy efficiency jobs make up three-quarters of the state’s advanced energy workforce, 17 percent of the workforce are in fields dealing with advanced electricity generation. That field makes up the second largest advanced energy job in the state, and many of those jobs are solar energy.

Solar jobs represent about half of the jobs in the advanced electricity generation field. The report found about 10,600 workers are involved in solar energy.

The reports findings come as Florida voters are being asked to consider a ballot initiative to support expanded growth in solar energy. A ballot initiative has been placed on the Aug. 30 ballot that, if passed, would extend property tax exemption for renewable energy devices, including solar, on commercial and residential properties.

The ballot initiative was sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, and Reps. Ray Rodrigues and Lori Berman, and cleared the Florida Legislature earlier this year.

The report also highlighted several other advanced energy jobs, including the advanced transportation segment. That segment employs nearly 8,000 workers, and is considered “quite large and varied.”

While the advanced fuel segment is small, the report found it was poised for growth. It currently employs about 1,600 workers, half of which work in corn ethanol.

According to the report, there are about 25,500 advance energy companies doing business in Florida, the vast majority of which service Florida customers. The majority of employers are small businesses, with 81 percent of companies employing up to 24 permanent employees.

And who are those employees? The report found 73 percent of advanced industry workers are male, and 8 percent of the workers are veterans. One in five workers are over the age of 55.

The report concluded there was “great potential for continued economic growth and employment opportunity in the advanced energy industry in Florida.”

“It is not surprising that advanced energy jobs in Florida are growing,” said  Rep. Dane Eagle, a Cape Coral Republican and the chairman of the House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee. “We need to provide a strong business environment that helps to foster the growth of these companies — with the least government intrusion as possible. The message we need to send is that Florida is open for business.”

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Mitch Perry Report for 7.12.16 – Will the FBI open another investigation into Hillary Clinton?

While there should be smiles in Portsmouth, New Hampshire later today when Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have their unity rally, some things to contemplate about Ms. Clinton, a week after the FBI announced that they will not indict her in the investigation of her email server while serving as secretary of state.

A majority of Americans think Comey let her off easily. Fifty-six percent of Americans disapprove of Comey’s decision to exonerate her, according to a Washington Post survey released Monday, while 35 percent approve.

This poll includes liberals who think that Clinton’s behavior here was a bit shady. Over 3 in 10 Democrats disapprove of Director Comey’s recommendation against charges for Clinton (31 percent), and the same percentage says the issue makes them worry about Clinton’s presidential responsibility. Over 4 in 10 liberals say the issue raises concerns about how Clinton might handle responsibilities as president, as do 36 percent of non-white Americans and 56 percent of those under age 40.

If you watched Comey’s 4.5 hour performance in front of the House Oversight Committee last Thursday, you saw how chairman Jason Chaffetz asked Comey if he had investigated on whether Mrs. Clinton had lied under oath regarding her emails when she gave her 10 hour performance before a committee investigating her actions in the Benghazi tragedy last fall. Come said he needed a referral – Chaffetz immediately responded, “You’ll get one in a few hours.”

Well, it took a few days, but in fact, the Oversight Committee last night referred the matter formally to the FBI to investigate.  The NY Times reports this morning that while legal analysts think it’s unlikely the bureau would ultimately find enough evidence to prosecute her for lying to Congress, “there might be enough to warrant opening an investigation. That alone could prove damaging to her campaign.”

To say the least. While supporters of Mrs. Clinton will maintain that the Republicans just let go of their obsession to go after her, another investigation will not help her out, folks. It won’t. This isn’t like the Republicans when they impeached Bill Clinton , and clearly overreached. The public knew the facts there, and saw the Republicans were being bullies. Here? The fact is she’s got serious trust issues.

In other news…

SD 19 candidate Augie Riberio pours in $300,000 of his own cash to kick start his very late entrance into that race.

Jeb Bush emerged from exile last night to condemn Donald Trump once again, telling voters that they’ll only be disappointed if he actually gets elected in November.

Bush says he’ll “actively campaign for Pinellas County CD 13 Congressman David Jolly this fall.

House District 61 Democratic candidate Sean Shaw talks about working with the GOP if elected, guns in the Legislature, and getting “the talk” about how to handle issues with the police from his father, the late Leander Shaw, the first African-American named to the Florida Supreme Court.

The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission is poised to raise the fines incurred by Uber and Lyft drivers in the county, much to the distress of state Senator Jeff Brandes, a leading PTC critic.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Hillsborough County PTC is raising fines on ridesharing drivers, and Jeff Brandes doesn’t like it

The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission is poised to begin increasing fines on Uber and Lyft drivers soon, and that’s not going down well with one of the agency’s biggest critics, state Senator Jeff Brandes.

The St. Petersburg Republican has frequently criticized the PTC over the years for their confrontational stance towards the two ridesharing companies, and he said on Monday that intends to file legislation to prohibit the actions of special district agencies like the PTC, who he says stand in the way of innovation in our state.”

“The Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission continues to bury their collective heads in the sand, ignoring the outcry of support from their constituents who support rideshare services like Uber and Lyft,” Brandes said in a Facebook posting.”The PTC is standing in the way of services which have been proven to reduce DUIs and make our roads safer. The Public Transportation Commission is the very definition of crony capitalism, and we cannot allow this blatant corruption to continue.”

Last week, the PTC rules committee unanimously approved a proposal to increase the fines charged to ridesharing drivers who get cited by PTC agents from $700 to $900, while the fine for allowing the operation of a vehicle without a permit would also rise from $200 to $400. The proposal was introduced by Temple Terrace City Council member David Pogolirich. The two companies have never been fully in compliance with PTC rules regarding insurance and background checks since they began operating in Hillsborough County since 2014, despite several attempts to come to an agreement. PTC Chair Victor Crist thought he had a deal set in May, but that failed to come to fruition.

The state Legislature has also failed to come up with a statewide regulations regarding the companies, setting the stage for each individual county in the state to attempt to find a way to get them into compliance with their rules.

Crist has had to deal with issues of his own in recent months, surviving a vote that called for him to resign from the board for recent comments he made about dissolving the agency, as well as a legal challenge by a coalition of taxi cab companies that also wanted him removed. Among the reasons cited in both cases was Crist’s comment that the agency should be dissolved, a stunning admission after he has attempted to clean up the agency’s tarnished image in recent years.

In an interview, Brandes decried the fact that the agency has no oversight other than the state Legislature, which created it as a special act during the 1970s. “Is that good public policy?” he asked about the increased fines, which if voted on next week would go into effect beginning in August. “There’s no rational reason why they’re charging one fine vs. another.”

“The PTC remains intent on protecting special interests and pushing through its own agenda without even considering the regulatory frameworks for ridesharing passed by policymakers in at least 30 states and other large jurisdictions throughout Florida,” says Uber spokesman Javi Correoso.

 Brandes has represented part of Hillsborough County as part of his Senate District 22 seat the past four years, but that will change in November, when he’s expected to easily win office to Senate District 24. However, that district remains in Pinellas County, meaning he won’t be able to file a local bill regarding the PTC later this year. He says, however, that there are “many options” when it comes to proposing legislation regarding special districts in the Legislature next year.

The Hillsborough PTC includes members from the County Commission, as well as representatives from the three incorporated cities: Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City. Brandes said it’s be beneficial if Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, for example, could join the board. Like Brandes, Buckhorn is on record as being in favor of dissolving the agency.

“When you have the head of the PTC saying ‘disband us.’ You’ve got the mayor of the largest city, saying that it’s no longer needed, it’s time for the legislative leaders to listen,” Brandes said.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Email insights: Dana Young touts her support of Uber and Lyft in fundraising pitch

Even before they began operating in Tampa, a coterie of Tampa Bay area Republicans have championed ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft.

Those state Representatives include Jeff Brandes, Jamie Grant and Dana Young.

In a fundraising pitch sent to supporters in her bid for the state Senate District 18 seat this fall, Young boasts about the work that Republicans have done in Tallahassee in recent years, saying that the state leads the country in job growth and that unemployment is at an eight-year low.

“But there’s still work to be done,” she says. “Special interests have blocked every attempt to allow ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft, and each day scammers are coming up with new ways to rip off residents.”

Young has been outspoken at times in bashing the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, the oft-criticized agency that regulates limousines, taxicabs and ridesharing companies in Hillsborough County.

Young co-sponsored a bill in the House earlier this year (with Plant City’s Dan Raulerson) that provided for background checks, insurance and vehicle inspection regulations for Uber and Lyft that have eluded state lawmakers for the past few years. It did not go very far, however, though the House did pass a similar bill on those issues sponsored by Shalimar’s Matt Gaetz.

The South Tampa-based Republican also called out PTC executive director Kyle Cockream last fall after the agency published space to place an advertorial in the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

While Grant and Brandes have called for the dissolution of the PTC, Young has never gone that far, telling this reporter that, “The regulatory structure of the PTC does not particularly bother me. But if the agency continues down the road to try to stifle services that the public wants, then it might be worthwhile to look at alternatives, but I’m just not there yet.”

Young concludes her fundraising email by referring to the fact that,”I’m running in one of the most competitive districts in the state, and I need your support.”

She’s received plenty to date in her race against Democrat Bob Buesing and independents Sheldon Upthegrove and Joe Redner, having raised more than $526,000 in her campaign coffers to date, with an additional $856,000 in her super PAC, “Friends of Dana Young.”

Young is accurate in that the race on paper should be competitive, especially in a presidential election year where Democrats running for the Legislature fare better in swing seat districts. Statistics show Democrats have a 40 percent share of the electorate compared to a 36 percent share for Republicans. Back in 2012, President Obama carried the Hillsborough County district by 1 point.

The newly constituted Senate District 18 encompasses Avila, Carrollwood, Davis Islands, Lutz, MacDill Air Force Base, Odessa, South Tampa and Westchase.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Joe Henderson: Unopposed candidates create ‘great void’ in local politics

Elections are supposed to be about choices, but after candidate qualifying ended in Florida last week, many of the elections are already decided.

Voters in 11 districts won’t get to choose their state senator because the incumbent faces no opposition — seven Republicans and four Democrats, if you’re keeping score. And in District 24, Pinellas County Republican incumbent Jeff Brandes faces only a write-in candidate.

The theme is the same in the state House, where 29 candidates face no opposition — 16 Republicans, 13 Democrats.

Twelve of 19 state attorney races are over before they start. Fourteen of 19 public defenders can hold victory parties. Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee is a winner. So are elections supervisor Craig Latimer, tax collector Doug Belden and County Commissioner Les Miller.

Three of the seven county commission races in Pinellas County didn’t make it to November, either. The Pinellas clerk of courts race ended on qualifying day.

What gives?

I don’t think there is one factor that explains it all.

In most, if not all, of those cases, opponents no doubt sized up the incumbent and the makeup of the district and decided it wasn’t worth the hassle of trying to raise enough money to compete.

Districts for statewide races are drawn with sometimes eerie precision that it’s almost too easy to predict the winner before the campaign even begins. Court-ordered redistricting now in effect may change some of that, but probably not all of it. That has a major dampening effect on an underdog pondering a challenge.

Voter apathy needs to be near the top of the list, too.

While debating the difference between Hillary and Trump in a bar might get you punched in the nose, local and even statewide races don’t have the same impact. I think it’s a safe bet that many voters can’t name their state senator or representative, even though those elected officials have a much more direct impact than someone running for president.

It takes a special something to get the attention of voters these days. A scandal might do it, as former Hillsborough Property Appraiser Rob Turner learned in 2012. Allegations that he sent porn to a female staffer in his office turned into a political tsunami that put a spotlight on a race that otherwise would have been relatively obscure.

But that’s the system we have now.

The major political parties in this state have become adept at speaking to themselves and rallying those few who give a hoot, but there is a great void out there waiting to be addressed that could change the way things get done.

Republicans have been much better than Democrats at working the system and getting what they want. That won’t change until opponents figure out how to make people understand that the closer to home a race is, the more they need to pay attention.

___

Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He has covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons — Ben and Patrick.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Poll shows solar power amendment backed by utilities gets 77% support from Floridians

A June online poll of Floridians by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute shows Floridians supporting two different alternative energy proposals that they’ll get the chance to vote for, one in August, and another in November.

This fall, Floridians will vote on Amendment One, the controversial solar power initiative that grants Florida residents the right to own or lease equipment that produces solar energy for personal use. While it’s strongly backed by the public utility companies in the state, it seems to be extremely popular with the public, with the measure getting 77 percent support. Only seven percent oppose the measure, with another 16 percent undecided.

Frank Orlando, political scientist and director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute, says the politics of Amendment 1 are “interesting because it is being supported by the large energy companies. Editorials have railed against the bill, but as of yet, opponents haven’t mobilized to stop the measure.”

The Florida Supreme Court approved the amendment’s language by a slim 4-3 majority earlier this year. The ballot summary says the amendment gives individual consumers a constitutional right to own or lease solar equipment, that governments have the right to regulate solar and that “those who do not choose to install solar” are not required to “subsidize” those who do.

Justice Barbara Pariente wrote in her opinion that the measure is “masquerading as a pro-solar initiative … actually seeks to constitutionalize the status quo. “

Floridians who participate in the Aug. 30 primary election will get the opportunity to vote on a different solar power amendment, this one listed as Amendment Four. That measure, co-sponsored by St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, Boynton Beach House Democrat Lori Berman and Fort Myers Republican Republican Ray Rodrigues, would essentially be a tax break: It would exempt solar power equipment on homes from being counted toward a house’s value for property tax purposes. It also would exempt from taxation solar energy devices on commercial and industrial properties.

Amendment 4 is supported by 68 percent of the public, opposed by by only 7 percent, with 25 percent unsure.

The statewide Florida poll by Saint Leo University’s Polling Institute contacted 500 residents using an online survey instrument between June 10 and June 15. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.57 percentage points on responses from likely voters, and 4.5 percentage points on responses from the broader survey base.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Jeff Brandes gets write-in opponent in bid for re-election to SD 24 race

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes looks to win re-election easily this November to his Pinellas/Hillsborough Senate District 24 seat.

No Democrat has emerged in 2016 to oppose him, perhaps intimidated by Brandes’s war chest, which includes more than $300,000 cash-on-hand.

An Army veteran, Brandes graduated from Carson-Newman College in Tennessee in 1999 with a degree in business administration. He joined the Army Reserve after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Brandes successfully ran for House District 52 in 2010.

After a single term in the House, Brandes ran for Senate District 22 in 2012, facing nominal opposition in the general election. However, Brandes faced a contentious primary against James “Jim” Frishe, a longtime Pinellas County lawmaker. Brandes defeated Frishe 58 to 43 percent.

In 2014, Brandes’ faced USF Florida St. Petersburg professor Judithanne McLauchlan, a veteran Democratic operative. Despite her with connections to the Clinton family, McLauchlan lost to Brandes 42 to 58 percent.

As chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, Brandes has been a staunch advocate of innovative technology, including driverless vehicles. He has also been a vocal opponent of red-light cameras, sponsoring bills in in both 2015 and 2016 to cut back their use by local governments.

According to LobbyTools, Brandes has also supported criminal justice reform, such as changes to the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws in 2016 and the use of driver’s license suspensions for a range of criminal offenses.

Write-in candidate Alexander Johnson, a Tampa resident, will appear on the ballot against Brandes in the fall.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Kathleen Peters to hold St. Pete fundraiser with Jeff Brandes

Rep. Kathleen Peters will look to infuse her House District 69 re-election campaign with a festive, craft beer-fueled fundraiser on Tuesday.

The Gulfport lawmaker will be hosted by fellow Pinellas Republican, Sen. Jeff Brandes at the Green Bench Brewing Company in St. Pete on Tuesday, June 21.

Peters is seeking a third term in the House in a moderate swing seat. She drew a Democratic challenger in Jennifer Webb in April, but expects local GOP support to rally around her.

The HD 69 seat includes Gulfport, Madeira Beach, Pinellas Park, South Pasadena, St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island and parts of St. Petersburg.

Maximum contributions are $1,000 under state law.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 9.40.11 AM

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Jeff Brandes: PSTA needs to rethink its mission, be open to options

Transportation is undergoing a “profound change” with an uncertain future that requires officials to be open to as many options as possible, state Sen. Jeff Brandes told a Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority Committee on Monday.

“This is as profound as it was a hundred years ago when we were transitioning from horse and buggy to the Model T,” Brandes said. “The best thing we can do is open ourselves to as many options as we can … [to] maximizing our options.”

Much of the change, Brandes said, is being driven by rapidly changing technology. Electric carmaker Tesla, for example, predicts it will have an autonomous vehicle on the roads in two years. And technological advancements have made it possible for companies like Uber and Lyft to provide low-cost, responsive transportation to customers. Brandes, a Republican, has long supported the concept behind Uber and Lyft.

Brandes said he believes this will impact agencies like the PSTA. Ridership will peak, he said, then private industry will begin to siphon off many riders. Yet, PSTA will still be providing a service to some. That means, he said, PSTA must rethink its metrics. The measure of success will no longer be the number of riders on a bus, but who those riders are. The goal will be moving people from point to point.

“I think we’re going to find we’re in the mobility business,” Brandes said.

That could mean buses for some because, for some routes, a bus makes sense. But for other routes, a bus makes no sense and transportation – or mobility – can use other methods.

PSTA officials, he said, need to be open to those other possibilities. As time goes on, the less workable options will fall by the wayside.

“We find ourselves in a really fascinating time,” he said.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Jeff Brandes funds state Senate re-election campaign $200K of his own money

State Sen. Jeff Brandes has given $200,000 toward his own re-election, May fundraising reports show.

His latest numbers, posted Friday, also show that Brandes pulled in another $32,000 in contributions for the month.

That brings the St. Petersburg Republican’s total raised to nearly $480,000 for this year’s election.

He has cash-on-hand of more than $310,000.

As of Friday, he is running unopposed. His area has been considered a swing district.

“This contribution reflects Senator Brandes’ continued commitment to serving his constituents and marks over $850,000 contributed by himself to his election efforts since 2010,” said Chris Spencer, his campaign manager.

Brandes’ last election in 2014 had him pulling off a win against Democratic political science professor Judithanne McLauchlan.

Senators typically serve four-year terms, but this upcoming election was required because of a court-mandated redistricting that redrew the state Senate district boundaries.

Other May contributions include $1,000 from the Florida CPA political committee and $1,000 from The Fiorentino Group, a Jacksonville-based lobbying firm.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons